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Cultural Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Lebrón-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center has seen many changes since its doors opened in 1989, but amidst the adaptation and growth, the commitment to Hampshire's students of color and international students has been unwavering. At a 20th anniversary celebration on October 26, the Hampshire community celebrated the impact the center has had over two decades.

"I just want to say thank you to the past generations of students, and students now, for creating this incredible space," said Cultural Center director Melissa Scheid Frantz in an opening address at the anniversary event. "What makes it alive is really these students, and the supportive faculty and staff."

Cultural Center Anniversary
Named for Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebrón, former Hampshire College professor Roland Wiggins and Dith Pran, a survivor of war-torn Cambodia and the subject of the film The Killing Fields, the Cultural Center has long been a focal point of campus efforts to address issues of race and culture. Students fought for the center's establishment, and, as Scheid Frantz noted, it has remained a student-driven enterprise. Programs and resources offered through the center are adapted to the needs of each incoming class based on the input of the students themselves. It's something Jova Vargas 06F has seen firsthand.

"In the past three years I feel I've been seeing a space evolve. It's really refreshing, and I feel it will be nice knowing that, when I leave, I can always come back here. I really appreciate this space, and I think a lot of people do," said Vargas.

First-year student Harshit Rathi 09F is still learning to navigate his way through Hampshire, but he credits the Cultural Center for making his first two months on campus welcoming.

"From the moment I was accepted, to getting here and adjusting to campus, they've been wonderful," said Rathi.

To mark the 20th anniversary, Scott Rule 05F (through the suggestion of his father, Hampshire carpenter Martin Rule) built a patio for the Cultural Center. "I intended it to be a place where everyone could gather together and foster dialogue on diversity," said Rule.

Monty Ross, Roland Wiggins' son-in-law, cut the ribbon on the bench. Though Wiggins was unable to attend, Ross promised to fill him in on the events. Some, he noted, will be included in a documentary he is filming about his father-in-law's innovative approach to education and dedication to supporting students of color, support which he was happy to see continued at the Lebrón-Pran-Wiggins Cultural Center.

Monty Ross, the son-in-law of Robert Wiggins, cuts the ribbon on a new bench installed to mark the Cultural Center's 20th anniversary. Ross is making a documentary on Wiggins, who was a Hampshire professor and one of the people students chose to name the Cultural Center for in 1989.


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